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3 GREAT STORIES: On Baltimore, baseball, & sci-fi hoops

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Mondawmin Monday (4/27/15, WBFF-TV): There have been numerous stories and reports from Baltimore this week, some instructive and some less so, about the protests and riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

So much of the images and video have arrived as a stream — stations providing non-stop coverage and constant immediacy, which absolutely has its place in situations like this. But this story, from FOX 45 Baltimore’s Kathleen Cairns and Jed Gamber, shows the power of editing and context.

Given time — and a four-block radius — to document Monday’s action, reporter Cairns and photographer Gamber find themselves in the midst of smoking tear gas, a burning car, and numerous protesters and police. They capture it all with a sense of poignancy and objectivity; Gamber shoots and edits some powerful moments, and Cairns shows wise restraint with her script, stepping back and simply connecting the dots of those aforementioned moments.

This is one of the most haunting, powerful stories I have seen this year.


3 GREAT STORIES: Starring street ball, Selma, & the iPhone

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

The Carver Mobb (1/21/15, SB Nation): How fitting that, on the week of the Super Bowl, the most powerful piece of football-related writing focused on a different league.

Forget the 90,000,000 words written about Deflate-Gate. Check out this 4,000-word piece from Ivan Solotaroff about a New York City street football league that can be far rougher than the NFL:

If all sport is ritualized warfare, it’s often difficult to distinguish the two in rough-touch. That’s particularly true as playoffs approach, when midfield fights emptying both benches can involve fans, referees, even league commissioners, usually aging veterans of the sport. “City” (short for the Bronx’s Coop City/City Island League) was the most desired Chip, until recruiting refs became difficult and the commissioner’s tires were slashed.

This is a masterful and powerful story from SB Nation Longform, as Solotaroff works as both tour guide — explaining the rules, format, and stakes of the league — and profiler — providing poignant portraits of the athletes and others involved. He writes beautifully at every step.


5 lessons from the Best American Sports Writing Stories of 2014

I said it last year, and I’ll say it again:

One of my favorite fall traditions is opening the annual anthology of the Best American Sports Writing series.

In this space alone, I have spoken of its influence on my career, interviewed a writer whose work has been featured in the anthology, and thanked one columnist whose entry more than a decade ago touched my heart.

Now, the fall has arrived once again, and so has this year’s collection.

And, much as it did last year and every year, the 2014 edition of the Best American Sports Writing anthology provides both inspiration and valuable journalistic lessons.

Here are five such lessons from five stories that made this year’s cut: (more…)

3 GREAT STORIES: Starring #Skywire, Stephen Colbert, & raw emotion

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I have a mentor who scoffs at the idea that certain stories are considered “emotional” while others are not.

“Every story is about emotion,” she says.

One of the toughest parts of my job on a daily basis is capturing raw emotions in a story. People behave differently when they know their actions are being recorded, especially but not necessarily by a camera (people modify their behavior in front of a writer with a pen and paper, as well).

This week, I use this space to celebrate three great stories from last week that gave people glimpses into raw emotion — three very different types of emotions.

Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda (6/23/13, Discovery Channel): A big part of me simply does not get the ultimate point of events like Skywire Live, other than as a chance to say to everyone, “Look at what we can do.”

(Thank you for indulging the Sports Night reference … my favorite unsung TV show of the 90’s.)

That said, when Nik Wallenda did his Skywire walk across the Grand Canyon, he instantly mesmerized more than a million people who tuned in to watch, be it on the air or online.

Part of the draw is, of course, the suspense of whether or not Wallenda would make it across. But that is only a fraction of the equation; after all, I think most people assumed deep down he would make it, or why would the Grand Canyon and the Discovery Channel put so much money and muscle behind it?

More than that, I think people wanted to see a seemingly ordinary person do an extraordinary feat.

During the event, my Twitter feed featured all sorts of comments about the event. Some folks marveled about Wallenda’s wardrobe, mainly that he wore blue jeans to conquer the Canyon. Others commented on the number of times Wallenda thanked Jesus during the proceedings. Still others loved the interplay between Wallenda and his dad.

Wallenda bared himself to the world, and in doing so — and by doing a remarkable stunt — he became an instant celebrity.


3 GREAT STORIES: The NBA Finals, and innovation in sports coverage


Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

When in doubt, sports shall guide us.

At least, sports journalists often do a great job of leading the way in terms of innovative storytelling.

I will confess: I am an unabashed basketball junkie. As the NBA Finals kicked off last week, I found myself reading a high volume of basketball-related content. I could not help but notice the numerous ways in which journalists, bloggers, and statisticians are now covering the sport online.

It’s a beautiful thing, really.

People watch sports with a variety of motives, and the Internet landscape now caters to all of them. To be sure, one can still go to,, or  Yahoo! Sports and take in the NBA Finals for its more overarching topics: Who are the heroes and goats? What does the series mean for the individual legacies of players like LeBron James and Tim Duncan? What does it mean to their teams, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, and their respective fan bases?

But what about the other fans? Many crave new-school statistics and analytics in their coverage; they now have many options. Many love to compare today’s game to that of the past; they too can find many resources on the Web.

And finally, many basketball fans — like me — love the playoffs because they turn the sport into a total chess match. Coaches adjust their game plans; players adapt to different match-ups; and fans can enjoy the whole thing on a macro or micro level if they so desire.